Monday, June 29, 2015

Searching for Peter Drucker

I recently contributed a blog to the Drucker Society Europe, about what I learned and carried with me over the years from Peter Drucker, the man Business Week said “invented management.” As I explained in that article, I’ve been channeling from Drucker for 40 years, ever since I encountered his book The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (1967) while working at Mary Quant’s fashion house in London. Drucker’s revelations about managerial philosophy became embedded in my own thinking and operating framework.

While Peter Drucker is well-known in certain academic circles and business press, he remains largely unfamiliar to a new generation of managers and business leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. Peter Drucker’s management philosophy has not dated at all since it was first popularized in the 1960s—in fact, his work is more prescient and relevant today than ever. This is the man who phrased the term “knowledge worker”—and presaged how information would become the world’s greatest currency—in the 1960s.

It’s time to reinsert Drucker’s thoughtful, strategic, and profoundly humane voice into the present conversation about the workplace and executive leadership. I’d like to help by bringing attention to “The Global Peter Drucker Challenge” essay contest for students and professionals from the ages of 18 to 35. The theme of this year’s competition is “Managing Oneself in the Digital Age”; essays are asked to be between 1,500-3,000 words and the submissions deadline is July 15, 2015. Winners will receive free registration to the Global Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna this November (a $2,000 EURO value all-access pass, with a priceless opportunity to hobnob with some of the world’s top executives and business thought leaders) with first-prize winners in two categories also receiving $1,000 EURO prize money and a one-year subscription to the Harvard Business Review.

For the uninitiated, the world of Peter Drucker and his humanistic management philosophy is an inexhaustible treasure trove that awaits discovery.

Image attribute/source: Peter Drucker /

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bursting With Enthusiasm

On a recent visit to Saatchi & Saatchi Synergize in Cape Town, I received a particularly enthusiastic welcome from the team. It was loud, energetic and infectious. It was fantastic and I loved it. Thanks again.

The welcome made me reflect on how music can breed enthusiasm. Different beats, tempos and tunes enthuse us in different ways. When I hear the song ‘Thunder Road’ by Bruce Springsteen I certainly don’t just sit around and listen. It makes me want to get up and get moving. It fills me with energy and enthusiasm for the day ahead. Fist-pump optional.

Enthusiasm is about approaching life with gusto and giving things your all. It makes a difference. Children certainly have their fair share of it. And lucky for us, it’s contagious. Demonstrations of enthusiasm by teachers, coaches and mentors are often alleged to have inspired and motivated.

The benefits of enthusiasm should not be underestimated. It’s a crucial part of overcoming challenges, solving problems and reaching goals. It gives us staying power in situations where our inner skeptic might be telling us to throw in the towel. The All Blacks have it each and every time they step on to the field. You won’t hear the word ‘half-hearted’ anywhere near ‘All Blacks.’

You often see it at the Oscars. In 1997 Cuba Gooding Jr. channeled his inner Rod Tidwell by repeatedly screaming “I love you!” and jumping around on stage. In 1999 Roberto Benigni won the Best Foreign-Language Film award for Life is Beautiful and upon hearing his name, hopped into the air and across seats to receive his award.

Great leaders have it in droves, as reflected in their great speeches. When Martin Luther King said “I have a dream” he had enthusiasm. When John F. Kennedy said “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” he had enthusiasm. People listened. People cared. They felt something.

Enthusiasm is all around us; it comes in many forms, and thank goodness for that, because it would be a pretty staid world without it.

Image attribute /source: SaatchiSynergize /

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Foodie Top Ten

Love a list. The below is courtesy of one of the team at My Food Bag, Danielle ‘Daikon’ Pearson. Yum. Enjoy.

10 foods I cannot live without!
  1. Avocado: this wee nutrient powerhouse is full of a number of important nutrients including electrolytes potassium and magnesium, as well as fibre and some of those heart healthy unsaturated fats. Avocados are a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant contributing towards optimal heart health, blood sugar control and weight management (through increasing the satiety of meals and snacks). I enjoy mine in the weekends for breaky with scrambled eggs, bacon or salmon, a grilled tomato, spinach and loads of fresh parsley.
  2. Salmon: another ‘superfood’ high in those powerful anti-inflammatory fats, in particular, omega 3’s. Omega 3’s play a vital role in protecting our cell health and function, as well as cognitive functioning. My absolute favourite way to eat salmon is my mum’s famous salmon en croute and a fresh side salad.
  3. Blueberries: these little balls of goodness are rich source of antioxidants and vitamin C. Research shows blueberries are extremely beneficial for the nervous system and can actually improve your memory! I had friends over for dinner the other night and had a heap of blueberries to use up so I made a macaroon tart topped with blueberries and pistachios, yum!
  4. Almonds: this popular and very versatile nut is the seed or pit of the fruit from an almond tree, a cousin of the peach, cherry and apricot tree. Almond fruit production peaks during the warmer summer months, but luckily for us, almonds are available all year round. One of my favourite ways to start the day is my breakfast smoothie with almond milk, frozen banana, almonds or almond butter, cinnamon and whatever else tickles my fancy (eg. berries, cacao and/or spinach).
  5. Cacao bean: cacao comes from the cacao bean and its name literally translates to ‘the food of God’s’ in the Aztec language due to its super high nutrient profile. Cacao is extremely high in antioxidants (apparently, even more so than green tea and red wine – great reason to eat more chocolate), and is also high in magnesium and iron. This makes it a great addition to your post-workout smoothie, reducing free radical damage and aiding muscle recovery and energy production. I like to make my own chocolate ‘ice cream’ at home using frozen bananas, cacao powder, almonds or almond butter and a drizzle of coconut cream. Yum!
  6. Bananas: you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em! Bananas are another food high in magnesium, potassium, and natural sugars, making them a suitable food for active people. Along with my breakfast smoothies and ‘ice cream’, you can’t beat a slice of homemade banana and walnut loaf with butter, or ricotta and a drizzle of honey for a real treat!
  7. Eggs: another love or hate food. Eggs can be eaten at any time of the day (breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks), they’re super cheap, super versatile and SUPER nutritious. Some even call eggs the ‘natural nutrient pill’ because they’re full of nutrients essential for life. Along with my weekend cook up, another favourite way to eat eggs for me is a good old eggs bene on potato or kumara rostis (instead of bread), with salmon and a drizzle of hollandaise.
  8. Coconut (anything!): coconuts have such a unique flavour and are another very versatile food. Coconuts are high in fibre and iron, with the coconut water being particularly high in electrolytes – a much healthier alternative to many sports drinks! One of my favourite things to eat is a spicy curry using coconut milk or cream. My sister makes a delicious Thai duck curry with lychees, and Nadia’s Thai red chicken and pineapple curry is another fav I have recently added to the list!
  9. Cheese (esp. feta and blue): according to one website, there are over 2000 varieties of cheese and mozzarella rates as the global fav! A refreshing blue cheese, walnut and pear salad on a hot day is one of my favs!
  10. Orange kumara: a sweeter alternative to red kumara, orange kumara is packed with fibre and vitamin C, beneficial for your immune system! Who doesn’t love homemade chips and wedges?! I make these to go with healthy homemade burgers, pizzas, fish n chips, or even eaten cold as a snack.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Youth Employment

A recent International Labour Organization (ILO) study found that lack of higher (post-secondary) education in developing countries leads to poor labor market outcomes for young people, meaning that they have a much lower chance of finding a decent job, or they have to settle for vulnerable or informal employment. The study highlighted that completing secondary education isn’t enough, and pushing undereducated and under-skilled youth into the labor market doesn’t help either.

The study was part of the Work4Youth project, a “five-year partnership between the ILO Youth Employment Programme and The MasterCard Foundation that aims to promote decent work opportunities for young men and women through knowledge and action.” The study’s findings, while perhaps not completely surprising, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wider picture regarding youth employment. It’s not a good one.

According to ILO figures, the global youth (aged 15-24) unemployment rate is increasing. In 2013 it was three times as high as the adult unemployment rate. The actual number is staggering. There were over 37 million fewer young people in employment in 2013 than there were in 2007. That’s a lot more unemployed young people. Many looking for work, although some have probably given up. That’s tough.

Youth unemployment rates in the US mimic this picture. Despite a booming US economy and the jobless rate at its lowest since 2008, youth unemployment is rising. Youth unemployment rates for the 20-24 year age group tend to run about double that of the general population, and more than triple for the 16-19 year age group.

Part of the problem is that the jobs that are available to young Americans are a mismatch with the skills young people have or their level of educational attainment. One of the impacts of this is that not only are youth unemployed, but they’re underemployed; often working in jobs with too few hours and/or working more than one job to make ends meet.

In some of the US’ economic competitors in Europe (e.g. Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands), youth unemployment is half the US rate or less. A recent CNBC article discussed what they do differently. The crux of it is skill-building and relevant work experience. Preparing young people for working life. It may seem simple, but it’s really only just starting to catch on in the US and it needs to scale-up.

NYC’s Urban Youth Jobs Program is a fantastic example of how the government can assist. The program encourages businesses to hire unemployed, disadvantaged youth (ages 16-24) in certain areas, as well as making it easier for youth to find a job and by offering a career training path for youth.

Today’s youth are the future of business, so businesses also have a key role to play. The most crippling effect of unemployment is the loss of self-esteem. Businesses can create self-esteem by creating employment opportunities for young people that offer choices, opportunities and challenges.

Businesses can’t just rely on the system to teach potential applicants relevant skills. They need to recognize that an unfilled role shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a bad thing but perhaps a sign of need; a gap to fill in terms of providing on-the-job training and upskilling, or by providing a mentor in the workplace. Businesses will reap the benefits in the long-term. Young people bring energy and enthusiasm. And we could all use more of that.

Image attribute/source: Christopher Furlong /

Monday, June 22, 2015


“People don’t yet know the potential of food,” says chef and social entrepreneur David Hertz. He’s a champion for the kind of potential that goes far beyond a delicious meal or a memorable experience. Put simply: “Good food is not enough, it also needs to do well to society.”

Hertz founded Gastromotiva, a “socio-gastronomic organization” which empowers disadvantaged people in Brazil’s favelas through learning about food and teaching people how to cook.

He calls it “social gastronomy,” using food as the basis for transforming lives by offering free culinary programs for disadvantaged youth. In turn, those youth (all 1,200 cooks who he has trained through the program so far) are encouraged to go back to their communities to train others. The scheme has a pyramid effect, by engaging people and building a network around food.

The program has seen huge success so far. One of his first trainees now has a catering business that employs 20 people. But not only does it offer education and a career path, it’s also provided the impetus for the development of small community food businesses inside the favelas of Sao Paulo – places that are typically rife with poverty, violence and drug trafficking. The program has also been extended to other socially excluded communities, such as prison inmates and jobless immigrants.

“We’re using food to generate love,” Hertz says. “Food is a community.” He’s right. What a fantastic initiative.

Image source:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

As Easy As Riding a Bicycle

While you’re reading this at your desk or mobile device, I’d like you to think for a moment of the series of incredibly complex neurological feats you performed that enabled you to arrive in this position. You shut off the alarm clock. . . you bathed, brushed your teeth, got dressed, tied your shoelaces. . . you locked up the apartment. . .  you weathered the daily commute. . . you fixed yourself a cup of coffee. . . you said hi to your coworkers. . .  you logged onto your work network. . . you performed the myriad morning rituals of the modern-day professional. Congratulations—you just passed through an interlocking chain of miracles. And you likely didn’t really think about any of it!

An absorbing eight-minute video from the folks at the YouTube educational video series “Smarter Every Day” landed in my e-mail inbox the other day from a former Procter & Gamble friend John Burke. In it, our host, Alabama engineer Destin Sandlin, demonstrates how the brain works and “un-works” through his trials with a specially rigged “backwards bike.” What makes the bike so special? When Destin turns the handlebar to the right, the bike turns left; when he turns the handlebar to the left, it turns right.

While silent-film-worthy hilarity ensues over his attempts to take to the road, Destin’s struggle to master the vehicle shows him how his thinking is in a rut. His brain “had the knowledge to ride the bike; but not the understanding.” The video is a powerful demonstration of how difficult it is for anyone to change rigid ways of thinking and cognitive bias.

After months of trial-and-error, Destin rides at last, an experience he describes as feeling like “a pathway in his brain had been unlocked.” Tellingly, his six-year-old son is able to master the trick bike in just two weeks—compared with the eight months it takes his engineer dad! That’s because children’s brains have greater neuroplasticity—or the ability to change neural pathways and synapses—than adults, which also explains why young people have the greatest aptitude for learning foreign languages.

Destin took the bike experiment on the road across America and Australia, challenging folks at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, among other locations. Everyone got tripped up. Think you’re any better? I can’t make a bicycle appear in this post, but take a look at this chart and try to quickly say the color of each word instead of reading them:

It’s surprisingly difficult to do, isn’t it? That’s because, the right half of your brain is trying to say the color, while the left half is attempting to read the word. It’s called Stroop Effect and it’s a classic psychological concentration test. Like the trick bike video, the implications are profound: we spend much of our lives with our wires crossed and our eyes wide shut. Untangle and open!

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